On Saturday, about 22,000 women reportedly rallied in Seoul, South Korea to protest spycam porn, known as “molka.” The demonstration, which AFP reporter Hawon Jung said was the largest women’s rally in South Korean history, also called for better laws and investigations with regards to these crimes.
Spycam pornography is hardly new in South Korea. In fact, it’s becoming more widespread. Citing a 2018 study from the Korean Women Lawyers Association, Korea Exposé reports that 24.9 percent of sex crimes in the country involved cameras in 2015, compared to 3.6 percent in 2006. The study found that subway stations had the most spycams, but that cameras are hidden in a number of other spaces, including buses, taxis, pools, supermarkets, and restrooms. The cameras have also reportedly been installed in men’s shoes to take upskirt photos and in bathroom stall screws.
Signs at Saturday’s protest offered messages like “My Life Is Not Your Porn” and “Wanna shit with my guard down.” Protestors wore red as a sign of their anger, shaved their heads to object their government’s failures, and covered their faces to avoid being identified and sexually harassed online. These demonstrations are all emblematic of a larger cultural issues of gender discrimination and sexism in the country.
Outrage over the government’s failure to prosecute men who non-consensually collect and distribute intimate video footage of women came to a height last month when a 25-year-old woman in Seoul was arrested for uploading a nude photo of a male model without his consent. Police were criticized for expeditiously investigating and punishing the perpetrator when it was a woman, when women victims often face sexism, skepticism, and a lack of urgency for similar or worse crimes.
As a result, more than 300,000 people signed a petition to the Blue House—the executive office of South Korea—demanding gender-equal investigations into cases of online sexual violence. The woman’s arrest as well as the petition served as the catalyst for an earlier women’s rally in South Korea last month, which the Korea Herald described as “the biggest women’s rights rally in Korea’s recent history” at the time. Protestors pointed out that while authorities took a decade to shutdown SoraNet, a site where men distributed spycam revenge porn, it took them less than two weeks to launch an investigation into WoMad, a controversial South Korean feminist site where the male model’s nude photo was distributed.
“Korean women are often told that they are simply too sensitive when they question the status quo, and that they are making themselves uncomfortable to be around,” an anonymous organizer of Saturday’s protest, called “The Courage to Be Uncomfortable,” told Korea Exposé. “We are reclaiming our right to challenge existing conditions that aggravate sexual discrimination. We are raising uncomfortable issues.”